Reject Report: Speed Racer

It’s only been two weeks, but the first major train wreck of the summer movie season is in the books. Or maybe I ought to say “car wreck”, because Speed Racer crashed in spectacular fashion and was killed at the box office. No other way to describe it.

Am I ever glad, in retrospect, that I didn’t pick this movie to finish in the Top Ten in my Summer Preview predictions. I knew this flick would lose the weekend to Iron Man but I figured they would have one weekend of respectability, at least. I overestimated how badly Speed Racer was going to tank. Not only did it not hit $40 million — it didn’t even hit $30 million!

It didn’t even hit $25 million! It didn’t even hit $21 million! That’s right, $20 million (!!!) is all this cinematic roadkill got. Iron Man dominated for a second incredible week, taking the checkered flag by so wide margin that it was a joke. It hauled in $50 million, down from last week but better than what most experts predicted.

Adding insult to injury, that Ashton Kutcher piece of junk What Happens in Vegas (Rotten Tomatoes: 28%) also made $20 million, and it was in a lot fewer theaters. In fact, Speed Racer did such poor business it would have also lost out to several movies released over the past number of weeks as well. These include 21, 10,000 B.C., The Forbidden Kingdom, Prom Night, Vantage Point, Jumper, Fool’s Gold, and on and on and on.

Talk about dismal. I was reading Nikki Finke’s website all weekend, and it seemed like every time I checked in for an update the estimates for Speed Racer were going down, and down, and down!! It really was like watching a slow-motion video of a flaming wreck in progress. Finke was also going on about how Speed Racer was doing even worse in the overseas markets, finishing in something like ninth place in Germany. Keep this in mind: they made this movie in Germany. When you make a movie in Germany of all places, land of the autobahn and Michael Schumacher, and not even these speed-obsessed Germans will see it… now, that is sad.

Holy cow, what a big bomb this is for Warner Brothers. The cost was rumored to be upwards of $180 million!! Frankly, I am surprised at how badly this flick did. This flick got a heap of publicity everywhere and I would have thought it would have made much more money, based on the hype. This is the type of box office one would expect for a movie that rolls out in early spring or the fall, not May. I guess that goes to show you that the audience testing does say a lot about a movie’s prospects. I remember reading Tom Green’s book Hollywood Causes Cancer, and he talked about how audience testing was done for Freddy Got Fingered. After the test screenings, the audience filled in their cards and the movie received the worst, most hostile responses ever. So these folks in charge knew they had a bomb on their hands before the movie was even released.

Maybe, just maybe, the people who made this flick marketed Speed Racer to the wrong audience — kids. Maybe they should have made this movie with an eye towards the fanboys and the aging baby boomers who remember the cartoon TV show. Or maybe they should have picked a different date to roll out this movie. Couldn’t the folks at Warners have waited until AFTER the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 to release this flick? Then they could have littered the TV broadcasts of those two events with Speed Racer ads and promotional tie-ins!! That’s what they did with Cars and with Talladega Nights!

Or maybe, just maybe, they shouldn’t have made this freaking flick to begin with. What an idea.

Forgive me for not coming up with any half-decent analysis of what happened with this movie. I don’t know why the movie flopped so badly. I’m just throwing out some theories for your edification and to fill space. (Maybe it was because of the RECESSION. Hey, now I’m thinking! Times are tight, and the price of gas is through the roof, so that encourages a lot of people to stay home.)

Suffice it to say it’s likely we’ll be spared a Speed Racer sequel, which is just as well. Maybe this will finally encourage studios to quit making retreaded movies based on TV shows, especially live-action retreads of cartoons. I don’t know of any movie based on a TV cartoon show that was ever a success with the critics, whether it’s Scooby-Doo or The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, or Josie and the Pussycats, or Underdog, or fill in the blanks. They weren’t big hits, either. The only recent one I can think of that really raked in the cash was Alvin and the Chipmunks, and I’m convinced that was a total fluke. I guess there was The Flintstones before that, but that was a while ago. And neither flick was very good, either.

It doesn’t even matter if the original cartoon series was any good to begin with. Just because the cartoons were cool doesn’t mean the big-screen version will be as good or even make money.

Here’s a rundown of the Top Ten.

1. Iron Man $50.5 million
2. Speed Racer $20 million
3. What Happens in Vegas $20 million
4. Made of Honor $7.6 million
5. Baby Mama $5.7 million
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall $3.7 million
7. Harold and Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay $3.1 million
8. The Forbidden Kingdom $1.9 million
9. Nim’s Island $1.3 million
10. Redbelt $1.1 million

By the way, it sure seems as if it’s the blockbusters are doing all the business right now. It only took $1.1 million dollars in business for Redbelt to make the Top Ten this weekend. Usually it takes $2 or $3 million. But that’s what happens when everyone in the whole United States of America wants to go see Robert Downey Jr. fly around in a metal suit. The Iron Man phenomenon is quite something right now.

That’s that for this weekend. Back later this week to preview more movies here at The Reject Report, as summer blockbuster season continues!


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